by Arabdho Majumder • March 3, 2023
Shane van Boening gave a wry smile and shook his head slightly as he walked away after shaking hands with Canada’s Martin Daigle. A missed nine ball from the latter provided Van Boening a lifeline at hill-hill, which he capitalized on in his second round match at the 2023 World 10-Ball Championship.
It was a second-straight close-call for the American number one and fourth ranked player per Fargo Rating in the tournament. Van Boening trailed Daniel Guttenberger 5-1 before coming back to win, 8-6. Another scrappy 8-6 win in the third round saw him safely into the last 32, which begins the single elimination phase, where he’ll play Marc Bijsterbosch on Friday.
A strong field with over a third of the 128 players being at or over a 780 Fargo rating meant little time for players to find their stroke. Van Boening wasn’t the only pre-tournament favorite to struggle as a result in the opening three days of the World 10-Ball Championship in Las Vegas. Many weren’t able to reach the last 32 round that ensured a payout, including Wiktor Zieliński, Albin Ouschan and Ko Pin-Yi. Eight of the top ten players per Fargo entered in the tournament still remain though.
The trio of Joshua Filler, Fedor Gorst and Ko Ping-Chung struggled the least of the favorites. All three went undefeated in the first three days of the event to reach the single elimination phase. Filler will face Ukraine’s Vitaliy Patsura, Gorst will face Duong Quoc Hoang and Ko will face Oscar Dominguez.
Filler dropped just five total racks in his first three matches and shutout up-and-coming American pro Shane Wolford in the second round. Similarly comfortable, Gorst gave up six total racks in his three matches. Ko lost 12 total racks in his first three rounds but faced a tougher draw with matches against Skyler Woodward and Eklent Kaçi to reach the last 32.
The hottest player of 2022, Francisco Sánchez Ruíz, cruised through his first two matches in Las Vegas. He slowed down against Lee Van Corteza, though, losing 8-3. The Spaniard downed Jesus Atencio, 8-2, in the losers’ qualification round to make the single elimination part of the tournament. He faces a resurging player in Alex Pagulayan next.
A former world champion in nineball, Pagulayan is finding a run of form again at the age of 44. He finished third at the Derby City Classic nineball event and reached the last 32 at the World Pool Championship earlier this year. An 8-1 opening round win against Zieliński, who won the Predator Las Vegas Open just last week, showed Pagulayan’s threat. A pair of 8-5 wins after that slotted him into the last 32.
Two others out of the crop of favorites who look in-stroke are both representing Asian countries. Taiwanese player Chang Jung-Lin and Naoyuki Oi from Japan both needed just three matches to book their last 32 tickets.
Chang reached the quarter-finals of the Las Vegas Open as a tune-up for this event and won his first two matches 8-4 and 8-1. He then scraped by Mario He, 8-7, in the winners’ qualification round. He’ll face Poland’s Mateusz Sniegocki on Friday morning.
Oi dropped just nine racks in total in his three matches. He hasn’t found the same magic he had the last two years just yet this year, but a deep run at this particular event wouldn’t be a surprise. He reached the quarter-finals at the 2022 edition and was a finalist the year before, losing to Kaçi. He faces Dutchman Jan van Lierop next.
Ones to watch…
Two young guns out of Europe, 19-year-old Moritz Neuhausen and 25-year-old Vitaliy Patsura, could have their major breakout performance in Las Vegas this weekend. Both have big-match experience. Neuhausen is a former junior world champion and Patsura won the 49th Texas Open last year and reached the quarter-finals at the Las Vegas Open last week.
Neuhausen’s impressive record at the World 10-Ball Championship this year includes wins against Billy Thorpe, Albin Ouschan and Tyler Styer. His one loss came hill-hill against another player who reached the last 32 in Olivér Szolnoki. Patsura, meanwhile, is undefeated so far. His last two wins, an 8-4 triumph against Max Lechner and an 8-5 win against Mika Immonen, show he’s capable of punching with the heavyweights at the event. Neuhausen takes on Lechner in the Last 32. Patsura will face Filler.
Another 25-year-old looking to make noise in the single elimination portion of the event is from Lithuania, Pijus Labutis. He knocked out Zieliński and He in back-to-back rounds to reach the last 32. He faces Szolnoki on Friday.